TLN Roundtable: Time to get a Centre?

We’re excited to bring you a new recurring feature – the TLN Roundtable. Every week, we’ll pose a Leafs-related question to our writers, gather the various opinions, post the answers, and create internal tension and hatred amongst us. Then you, the reader, get to tell us how wrong we all are in the comments!

This week’s question…

The Leafs are seriously thin down the middle… Should Toronto make a trade for another centre or stand pat and ride it out?

Steve Dangle (@Steve_Dangle) 

The Leafs should stand pat for a similar reason for why they stayed with Tyler Bozak – who’s available? The reason it’s hard to get a good centre is because there aren’t many out there, and the teams that have them don’t want to give them up. The ones that are free agents? Usually too bloody expensive. Remember when the Leafs didged the Brad Richards bullet but still ended up settling for "the second-best centre available" in Tim Connolly?
One name I saw get brought up on Twitter a few times in the last week or two was Florida Panthers centre Marcel Goc. For some reason it feels like he’s been in the league forever, but he’s only 30. He’s not Sidney Crosby but for the $1.7 million price tag attached to him he’s a decent bargain, plus he’s a UFA at the end of the season.
Here’s a thought: I wonder if the Panthers would be enticed by one of the Leafs’ depth defencemen on the Marlies? Korbinian Holzer hasn’t played especially well, but he has NHL experience. Perhaps a package of him and a middle to late round pick like a 4th or 5th for Marcel Goc? What about straight up for Jesse Blacker? We here at the Nations have Blacker in the top ten Leafs prospects, but he’s only played five games so far in a 2013-14 Marlies campaign where he’s been a healthy scratch almost all the time. If the Panthers don’t want to give up on Goc, then another name I’ve seen suggested is Mr. "I was once traded for Todd Bertuzzi" Shawn Matthias. He makes $1.75 million against the cap this year and next, and he’s a BIG GOOD OL’ CANADIAN KED AND EVRYTHINK LIKE TAT! *thumbs up*
Seriously though, Kadri is only gone for three games, and two of them are against the Sabres. Bozak will be back in a week or so. Unless the Leafs completely start to suck and fall to under .500 before Christmas, I say just stand pat for now.

Ryan Fancey (@rfan_3)

The injury to Bolland has really emphasized the Leafs’ lack of depth at centre this time around, but they’ve been weak there for half a decade anyway. I’ve wanted them to make a big trade in that area for a while, and I still feel the same way. And by the way, I truly believe the Leafs are a stronger team without Bozak in the lineup, due to the coaching staff’s insistence on him being on the top line. People think I say that just to troll on Twitter, but I’m dead serious. 

Up until the injury, Bolland played extremely well, and is no doubt versatile, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back after this season. Nonis should be looking for centre help in a big way. It isn’t easy to pull off a deal for a guy that can play on the top two lines, but a shakeup like that could do wonders in helping the Leafs with their defensive game and keep things in the opposition’s end, even if it means stripping depth from from the wing or unloading one of their prospect blue liners. 

Of course the alternative to making a big move is to ride it out, but I’m not sure what the Leafs would be riding to. As it stands right now they have Kadri and Bozak beyond this year, and both Bolland and McClement on expiring deals. Unless there’s some substantial movement to clean up that situation and get another good name in there with an ounce of skill, the Leafs might continue to scrape by, but they won’t win anything.

Justin Fisher (@thejustinfisher)

Stand pat – for now. Unless we’re talking about a major, major trade that would bring a young, top flight centre to the Leafs, it’s probably not worth it. I imagine at this point in the season the price for a capable 2nd or 3rd line pivot will be too high. Should the Leafs really entertain the idea of trading one of their assets – a Jake Gardiner, perhaps – to plug injury holes? No, those assets should be packaged to improve a team, not keep them afloat.

The Leafs are 11-6-1 on the season, and their next four games are against Buffalo, Buffalo again, the Islanders, and Nashville. Despite injuries, those are all winnable games. If the Leafs can pocket some points in the upcoming stretch, then it’s best to ride it out. Going with Bozak, Kadri, McClement and Smithson/Smith down the middle is far from ideal, but I’m not convinced it’s enough to sink the team if the wings stay healthy and the goaltending remains out-of-its-mind good. Furthermore, how does the cap situation work out when the aforementioned injured do return? Making a trade today is a knee-jerk reaction – it’s probably another week or two until I’d make a move.
But hey, if someone wants to give Toronto a perfectly elite centre for a middling prospect and a Bon Jovi banner, be my guest.

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  • mlpnj5

    My problem is that the player they should be trading happens to be a centre, i.e. Kadri. He will fetch a good return as he’s wanted by other teams (for some reason), but continues to demonstrate that he (a) may never mature, and (b) may be unteachable. They could investigate a Reilly for Kadri head transplant.

  • STAN

    Something’s not getting through to this team. They play like 23 individuals, not a team.

    As for the centre position, I’d be thinking outside the Carlyle box and experimenting with Jake Gardiner as a forward, on a line with Raymond. Two speed merchants who can use their wheels to NOT get caught behind the play.

  • It is funny how you guys are TLN are all over the map. From an earlier blog post I read Nonis being as creative as a third grader for signing Smithson to the above quotes which land more pragmatic given the “cost” of landing a viable center.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Justin’s right. Don’t be reactive. If people thought Nonis paid to much for every move he made over the summer, what he’d have to fork out to solve the current problem would be painful and partial.

    The test is of Carlyle. Let’s see what a good coach he is.

  • Realistically, Kadri is missing games against buffalo and the islanders, two teams that are by no means powerhouse teams. No need to worry yet and go all crazy with acquiring a center. Just need to hold tight for now in my opinion

  • STAN

    Stand pat, Kadri is only gone for three games and Bozak could be back in a week.

    This is why you try to bank points against weaker teams early in the seaon. Even if you lose a few games now, you have enough cushion that there is no pressure to make any panic moves.

    I think there is a bright side to these injuries/suspension at center. It forced them to take a better look at Smithson. I like him in that 4th line/face off specialist/13th forward role.

    With Smithson able to work well from the 4th line/faceoff specialist role, the Leafs are free to push up McClement to the third line for more minutes. This type of flexibility could be useful down the stretch and into the playoffs.

  • jasken

    They got to stand with what they have bringing up smith helps. Could look at is atleast their s% is returning to normal so now it dont look so high above the league average and it only took the loss of 2 centers to do it.

    I believe they can handle the next few games without their centers their keeping the games close now so I dont foresee this being a problem short term.

  • jasken

    Hey Fancy, you can’t be serious that the Leafs are better without Bozak? I know you say you aren’t trolling but I don’t believe it. You’re totally trolling and you hooked me on that so congrats! This team has been far worse since Bozak went down. JVR has been almost invisible, and even Kessel is having a tough time aside from a couple of games. This team needs Bozak back big time!